It’s apple season on Prince Edward Island and orchards are filled with trees bearing wonderful apples of so many varieties. There’s nothing like heading to a U-pick orchard to pick your own apples. I always pick several pecks each fall — in fact, sometimes it’s easy to get carried away and pick too many! However, they do get processed into pies, crisps, sauces, and jellies. Apples are very versatile!
For apple jelly lovers, now is the time to make that rich red crabapple jelly that is so flavorful. The apples I used in the recipe I am sharing today came from Arlington Orchards in Arlington, west of Summerside, PEI. I knew by the color of them that they would make a good jelly. They are the Dolgo Crabapple variety.
Now, apple jelly is not particularly difficult to make but it is a lengthy process and does take a bit of skill and know-how to get it cooked to the correct jelly state.
First, you have to wash and cut off the stem and blossom ends of the tiny apples. Then, they have to be cooked to the “mushy” stage. I take a potato masher and mash down any remaining chunks of apple after cooking as I find this helps the mixture to drip better once it is in the jelly bag. The “mush” (pulp) gets bundled into a cheesecloth bag, tied, and hung over a bowl or pot to catch the juice dripping from the cooked apples. I use a double weight of cheesecloth because I don’t want any apple seeds or pieces of apple peel coming through. The objective is to have the juice as clear as possible so it does not make a cloudy jelly. The aim is to have a transparent jelly.
The time-consuming process is waiting for the juice to slowly drip from the pulp in the jelly bag– it takes several hours and I usually leave it overnight. The bag has to get suspended to allow the juice to slowly drip out. I concoct a really “sophisticated” outfit for this — I simply hang the jelly bag on to a broom handle and suspend the broom between two chairs with a bowl or pot placed under the bag to catch the juice. Really high tech, don’t you think! Nevertheless, it works and gets the job done.
Once it’s apparent that there is no more juice dripping, discard the contents of the jelly bag. Measure and pour the extracted juice into a stock pot. Add the sugar and lemon juice and start the cooking process. I add sugar at the ratio of 3/4 cup sugar to 1 cup extracted apple juice. Place 2-3 saucers in the freezer — these will be used to test the jelly’s state of “jellying”. Once a small sample of the jelly is put on a cold saucer, placed in the freezer for a minute, removed, and starts to “wrinkle” when pushed gently with a finger, it has reached the jelly stage and is ready for bottling.
I don’t process my jelly in a hot water bath because I have a cold room in which to store the jelly over the time I plan to keep it on hand. However, if you don’t have a cold room or space in the refrigerator in which to store the jelly, I recommend processing it in a hot water bath following the directions provided from the manufacturer for your canner.
4 lbs crabapples
7 cups water
Granulated sugar (see Method below for amount)
3-4 tbsp strained fresh lemon juice
1 tsp butter
Remove stem and blossom ends from apples.
Leave apples whole. Place in large stock pot.
Add the water.
Cook for approximately 40-45 minutes or until apples have softened and begun to break down into mush.
Gently mash any large chunks of apple with a potato masher.
Place a double weight of cheesecloth in a large colander.
Place the colander over a large pot. Pour the apple pulp into the cheesecloth-lined colander.
Let mixture drip for about 20 minutes or so to get some of the initial juice out of the pulp.
Gather up the ends of cheesecloth and tie tightly with an all-purpose twine or heavy string, making a loop by which to hang the jelly bag to allow the juice to drip out.
Hang the jelly bag on a broom handle and support the broom between two chairs. Place a large pot or bowl under the jelly bag to catch the juice as it drips.
Allow this to drip on its own for several hours (i.e., at least 3-4) or overnight, until no more juice is seen dripping through. Resist the urge to squeeze the jelly bag to hasten the juice flow as this could cause some of the apple pulp to escape the bag resulting in a cloudy juice and jelly.
Place 2-3 saucers in the freezer. You will need these to test the jelly for “jellying” status.
Place six clean one-cup mason jars upright in a large pot. Cover jars with water and heat to 180°F to sterilize the jars. Keep jars hot until ready to use.
When jelly bag is done dripping, discard bag and apple pulp. To determine the amount of sugar needed, measure out the extracted juice and add ¾ cup of sugar for each cup of juice.
Pour juice into pot.
Add the lemon juice and sugar to the extracted apple juice.
Stir to dissolve sugar.
Add 1 tsp butter to reduce foaming.
Bring mixture to a rolling boil.
Continue to boil over medium high heat for about 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, then test for status of jellying.
To test for jellying, remove one of the saucers from the freezer and place a couple of teaspoons of the jelly on it. Place the jelly in the freezer for one minute. Remove it from the freezer and push the jelly gently with a finger. If it wrinkles, it is done.
If it doesn’t wrinkle, keep cooking the jelly, testing every 5-6 minutes until it is done. Do not overcook.
Skim off any foam that may still remain on top of the jelly. Bottle hot jelly into sterilized jars, using a funnel, leaving between ¼” – ½” headroom . Wipe rims with clean damp cloth.
Heat jar lids and immediately place over hot filled jars. Finger tighten a rim band onto each jar. Process in hot water bath following canner manufacturer’s directions. Allow jelly jars to sit at room temperature for several hours to set then store in cold room out of light.
Yield: 5½ – 6 cups
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